In keeping with the tradition set by State Attorney Brian Haas last year, three law enforcement officers were honored at our annual awards ceremony. These exceptional officers were recognized because they have gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve our community this past year.
“We are blessed in the tenth circuit to have many wonderful officers and deputies. Each day and night they put on their uniforms to protect us, not knowing if they’ll ever return home,” State Attorney Haas said. “They investigate cases and do not give up until every lead is pursued and every angle is worked.”
Lakeland Police Department Detective Timothy McDonald was honored for his work on the Tyrone Laster case.
When law enforcement found Chauncey Rollins, he was lying in a pool of his own blood.
He’d been shot in the back of the head and was mumbling incoherently. There was a spent shell casing on the ground next to him.
A Lakeland Police officer crouched down next to Rollins and asked who shot him: “Tye. Tye shot me.”
Following the shooting, Rollins was in a coma for two months. As a result of his injuries, he lost the use of his arms and legs and is confined to a wheelchair.
The bullet is still lodged in his head.
The two were known to deal drugs from a drug house Laster ran, where Rollins would frequently deliver the drugs and return the profits to the house. Rollins was late bringing the latest payment to Laster because he was $20 short on the agreed price, so the two planned to meet at the drug house the evening of June 10, 2015, to square up.
Rollins received a few angry phone calls from Laster earlier in the day, where Laster threatened him. Rollins told jurors he didn’t take the threats seriously because the two were good friends.
But when Rollins arrived at the house, Laster was angry. They talked for a few minutes, and Rollins said he wasn’t afraid until Laster left the room and returned with a gun, pointing it at him.
Rollins told jurors during trial. “I didn’t think he would shoot. I thought he was going to calm down, and the next thing I know I was shot.”
When the investigation began, all detectives had was Rollins’ dying declaration that Tye shot him.
Assistant State Attorney Michael Nutter said that a lot of witnesses started pointing to leads that would never pan out, so that’s when Detective Timothy McDonald started hitting the streets to gather intel.
McDonald learned that a woman by the name of Angela Walker was a key witness to the shooting. After five days of countless interviews to figure out where Angela was and who Tye was, McDonald found her.
Walker also identified Laster as the shooter from a photo pack.
McDonald interviewed Laster, who claimed he was at Burger King in Plant City at the time of the attempted murder. But McDonald tracked down security footage to disprove Laster’s alibi, forcing him to go with an accidental discharge defense.
Nutter said that when Rollins woke up from his coma, he did not have any memory of the shooting.
“Without tracking witnesses down, we would not have had a case or known what happened,” Nutter said. “None of these people were particularly cooperative, but McDonald did a lot of hard work tracking down witnesses and getting them to talk.”
The first time this case was tried, the jury was hung. Nutter said McDonald did an excellent job testifying at both trials.
A jury found 43-year-old Tyrone Laster guilty of attempted second-degree murder. Jurors also found that during the commission of the offense Laster was in actual possession of a firearm, and he discharged the firearm, resulting in great bodily harm to Chauncey Rollins.
He was sentenced to life.
“Some may say that violence between drug dealers doesn’t matter, but that’s just not the way it is,” Haas said. “If Laster would shoot Rollins, he would shoot any of us or any other citizen.”
Haas said that Detective McDonald showed an amazing amount of determination in solving this crime. Others may have given up, but he did not.
Without his hard work and dedication, Haas said, this crime would not have been solved, and this dangerous violent felon would still be out on our streets.
“This case is not an exception for McDonald, it fits with the reputation he has earned during his career serving our citizens,” Haas said. “Timothy McDonald is a role model for other officers and for all of us.”